News / Asia

Reconstruction Continues In Quake-Hit Christchurch

An undated artist impression shows the Christchurch downtown projects planned for a new-look after the New Zealand city was reduced to rubble by an earthquake in 2011, July 30, 2012.
An undated artist impression shows the Christchurch downtown projects planned for a new-look after the New Zealand city was reduced to rubble by an earthquake in 2011, July 30, 2012.
Phil Mercer
— New Zealand’s prime minister is predicting that economic growth will accelerate when the rebuilding of the earthquake-damaged city of Christchurch begins in earnest next year. The rate of growth is in large part tied to insurance claims that are now expected to be well in excess of $24 billion. One-hundred eighty-five people died when a violent tremor shook New Zealand’s second biggest city in February 2011.

The wreckage from last year’s magnitude 6.3 earthquake is gradually being cleared in central Christchurch.  Officials say a new, low-rise city eventually will emerge.  Major downtown rebuilding projects are expected to begin next year when much of the demolition work is expected to be completed.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says the city, which lies in one of the world’s most ‘quake-prone' countries, is recovering well.

“We have learned a lot but, in summary, I think the progress has been utterly extraordinary and I am very, very proud of the way my council organization has worked.  I have a lot of respect for the role the government has played and helping us get there," he said. "But my primary respect is for my neighbors, the people of this city. You know, 12,000 earthquakes later, we are still here.  We still are gungho [enthusiastic] about our future and we are in the process of re-imagining and rebuilding and re-creating a place that we love.”     

It is estimated that much of the reconstruction work in central Christchurch will take between five and 10 years to complete.  Quake-hit suburban areas, where thousands of homes were left in ruins, along with roads, bridges and sewage systems, also will take many years to fix.

The city’s 150-year-old Anglican cathedral was badly damaged.  Church officials want to tear it down and replace it.  That could take a decade, so to lift the spirits of a battered city, a 6-storey cardboard cathedral will be erected in time for next Easter.

It is the work of a Japanese designer, Shigeru Ban, and will have seating for 700 people.

“We are two years past the February 22 earthquake, which hit the CBD [central business district]," said Reverend Craig Dixon who is managing the project. "Eighty percent of the CBD is coming down, or is down already, so around Christchurch in the central city you’ve just got massive empty spaces.  So to have a building go up - and to have such an innovative building go up, really does put forward to the city and to the people a sign of hope,” Dixon added.

Dixon describes what the cardboard cathedral will look like when finished.

"It is a massive triangular-shaped building.  As you walk into the height of the roof increases and the building narrows, so it is a really interesting shape as you experience it as you walk into the structure," he said. "But when you look at it from the outside you’ll see a large triangular structure six storeys high.”    

Residents say violent aftershocks that followed the major earthquake in February 2011 have subsided, giving relief to a jittery population.

The city’s Catholic bishop, Barry Jones, says that, although the rebuilding work is progressing well, he worries about the psychological health of the vulnerable.

“Sometimes there is a kind of overemphasis on the positive and sometimes commentators sound gungho and all that kind of stuff, but it is a huge amount of stress and suffering still part of the reality of people’s lives and uncertainty and fear.  A lot of young people are still afraid of earthquakes, a lot of school children.  But the decision makers, no, they seem to be getting on with it,” stated Jones.  

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key says that his South Pacific nation’s economic growth will accelerate when the rebuilding of central Christchurch begins.  The reconstruction is largely funded by the government and insurance companies, but Tim Hunter -- who heads the regional tourism authority -- says that attracting some foreign tourists remains a challenge.

“We particularly noticed with Australian travelers that they have stayed away in droves.  They do not like earthquakes; they do not like the look of them.  They do not like what it has done here," Hunter noted. "You know, it is going to take some time before we can get that market to feel safe and secure.” 

Still, there are many signs that Christchurch is determined to bounce back from the traumatic events of 2011.

Shipping containers have been used to create a makeshift shopping mall in the heart of the shattered central business district.  More than 25 stores and cafes have moved in, and have become a beacon of hope and activity.

American tourist Terri, from Maryland, says it is good to see such determination amid the ruins.

“I am surprised that it still so devastated after two years,” he said. "I think this is fantastic actually that people have been resourceful to build and try to restart the community.”

New Zealand experiences about 12,000 earthquakes each year.  Most pass unnoticed, but Christchurch will bear the scars of one of the most serious quakes the country has ever seen for years to come.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid